American Presidents and Their Attitudes, Beliefs, and Actions Surrounding Education and Multiculturalism
Baptiste, H. Prentice, Sanchez, Rebecca, Multicultural Education
A Series of Research Studies in Educational Policy
Examining Presidents George Washington, James K. Polk, and Franklin D. Roosevelt
Understanding the Presidents of the United States, their actions, beliefs, and contradictions, is constructive in understanding our nation's complex societal issues. As a society we inherit the problems, challenges, and legacies of these leaders. Multicultural education and multicultural education theory offer an alternative lens from which to analyze and interpret the actions and inactions of the Presidents.
This lens allows for additional recognition of the roots of contemporary struggles. Geneva Gay describes a primary characteristic of multicultural education: 'Multicultural education is essentially an affective, humanistic, and transformative enterprise situated within the sociocultural, political, and historical contexts of the United States" (Gay, 2004, p. 39).
This historical component, which has been whitewashed to the advantage and preservation of the dominant white culture, becomes increasingly important in order to address the presidential administraof George Washington, James K. Polk, and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
There are several major considerations in terms of multicultural education that can be addressed through a presidential study. First, the actions, policies, and administrative decisions of the presidents have influenced and determined the fate of the citizenry in terms of equality, racism, discrimination, and attitudes about groups. second, the historical legacy and glorification of these same men in educational texts, and the failure to include the often-devastating significance of their actions towards certain groups in historical accounts, has further distorted societal attitudes about multiculturalism in our country.
James Banks argues that it is imperative that ".the curriculum is reconceptualized to help students understand how knowledge is constructed and how it reflects human interests, ideology, and the experiences of the people who create it" (Banks, p. 23). A strange paradox emerges. The same men that we look to as embodiments of the ideals of freedom, leadership, democracy, and equality, are men, who in the cases of Washington, Polk, and F. D. Roosevelt, personally and publicly were unable to live up to the values for which they are idolized.
Because of these inconsistencies, and the impact of their administrative policies on all cultural groups in the United States, we are seeking to use a multicultural lens to analyze and historicize in an effort to understand the power of history and historical interpretation in shaping the beliefs and attitudes of a people.
We often speak about American history as if it were something real. But I do not believe in American history: I only believe in American histories.I. object to the way history has been constructed, sanitized, and glorified. (Saenz, p. 137)
This sanitization effect is ever present in our schooling regarding the presidents. Do our textbooks ever really delve into the aristocratic nature of Washington? The assimilistic desires of Polk? Or the neglect of racial issues by F. D. Roosevelt? Moreover, are students of history, in all grades, encouraged to connect the personal attributes of the presidents and executive decisions they made to the complex multicultural dilemmas of their time?
A historical revisitation of our Presidents allows for scrutiny and deeper understanding of their administrations thus helping to situate and contextualize our current racial, ethnic, and cultural dilemmas in education and society at large. Loewen, in his argument surrounding the acquisition of new historical knowledge states, "Understanding our past is central to our ability to understand ourselves and the world around us. We need to know our history" (p. 13). The problem arises when historical …
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Publication information: Article title: American Presidents and Their Attitudes, Beliefs, and Actions Surrounding Education and Multiculturalism. Contributors: Baptiste, H. Prentice - Author, Sanchez, Rebecca - Author. Magazine title: Multicultural Education. Volume: 12. Issue: 1 Publication date: Fall 2004. Page number: 33+. © 2005 Caddo Gap Press. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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